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How To Explore The Land of Your Ancestors           

          for Jocelyn, family genealogist

1.      Wear your fingerprints, embrace your DNA
2.      Have a cold (Heraclitis says a dry soul is wisest
            and best but Heraclitis undoubtedly
            never travelled Scotland
3.      You must expect to be somewhat damp here
4.      --This isn't Greece after all)
5.      The cold will numb you

            so you don't quite notice
6.      When you're overwhelmed
7.      And it will help you parse strong accents
8.      And besides you like to feel
            a little viral wherever you go
9.      But carry lots of Kleenex
10.     And extra patience to offer those

who sleepless against your battering
            cough are
11.     In need of rest
12.     Are unnerved by how you switch

            to driving the left side of the road
            almost effortlessly
13.     Drive carefully drive yourself carefully
            drive others with the greatest of care
14.     Forget where you are
15.     Fall in love with stone and forget about trees
16.     They're grown in regiments here anyway
17.     Fall in love with gray stone sky water
18.     And the green green hills
19.     Spend days staring at the stones of castles
20.     Of brochs
21.     Of abbeys
22.     Of cairns
23.     And lining underground caverns
24.     And those standing
25.     In rows and circles
26.     Don't snub the fallen
27.     Spend days admiring stone on beaches
28.     Laugh at the lamb's antics
            in the fields
29.     Eat them
30.     Love the rain pinging against your face
            or rising as mist around you
31.     Love the lochs
            both sea and inland
32.     Decide that even as a Statement
            kilts are best not worn
            with rugby shirts
33.     But are fine on road workers

            near Fort William
34.     Be happy when your landlady is named
            for a goddess
35.     Choose a nettled cottage
            as your own
36.     Find where stories were surely told
37.     Where the fairy queen carried off
            Thomas the Rhymer
38.     The crossroads where Tam Lin
            shivered naked in Janet's arms
39.     Where Bonnie Charlie went from win

            to defeat to defeat
40.     Find the land where clan warred and starved

            and killed for cattle
41.     Learn to read gravestones
            to find the humour in the hourglasses
            the skull & bones
            humble praises lauding phrases dire warnings
            simple ends
42.     Find your fingerprints (grubby and virulent)

Neile Graham is a Canadian by birth and inclination, though she currently lives in Seattle. Her poems have been published in various American, Canadian, and British journals, including recent issues of Canadian Literature, Goblin Fruit, and The Malahat Review. She has three full-length poetry collections, most recently Blood Memory (BuschekBooks, 2000).

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